ABA Midyear Meeting

Asylum-seekers deserve greater legal protections and better treatment, declares ABA House

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The federal government should maintain an asylum system that provides those fleeing persecution or torture with access to counsel, due process and full and fair adjudication rights that are consistent with U.S. and international law, according to a resolution the ABA House of Delegates passed overwhelmingly Monday at the midyear meeting in Austin, Texas.

Resolution 117, sponsored by the Commission on Immigration, also expresses the association’s opposition to recent government policies, including the Migrant Protection Protocols, or “Remain in Mexico” policy; metering, or refusing asylum-seekers entry due to limits on the number of individuals who can be processed; restrictions on asylum eligibility for individuals who did not apply for protection in transit countries; and the development of international agreements that allow the United States to transfer individuals to third countries without conducting asylum adjudications.

Wendy Wayne, the chair of the Commission on Immigration and author of the report that accompanies the resolution, explained that it was drafted after she and other members of the commission spent a week volunteering with the ABA’s South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project in Harlingen, Texas. The program is more commonly known as ProBAR.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the 2020 ABA Midyear Meeting here.

“What we observed during this trip was a humanitarian crisis created by some of these policies and an immigration court system that does not uphold our values of justice or fairness,” she said.

Wayne recalled that her group encountered nearly 2,500 people living on the street across the border in Matamoros, Mexico, with no running water and a total of five port-a-potties. The only food and shelter they received was from a group of teachers who walked over the international bridge every day with as much food and as many tents and yoga mats as they could carry.

In addition to horrendous living conditions, she said the Migrant Protection Protocols makes it nearly impossible for asylum-seekers to access legal representation. Of the 50 cases Wayne and her group observed, only three of those seeking asylum had access to counsel.

Wayne contended that the federal government’s recent immigration policies are even more troubling because they were imposed by unilateral executive action without input from Congress.

The Commission on Immigration plans to coordinate with the ABA Governmental Affairs Office to make contacts in Congress, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice aware of these recommendations and encourage changes in legislation and policies that uphold due process and fairness in the asylum system.

See also:

ABA Journal: “ABA president calls for creation of independent immigration courts, criticizes ‘remain in Mexico’ policy”

ABA Journal: “Commission on Immigration urges widespread reform”

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